D.C. Council 71: Wizards 93 vs Suns 99: Wiz Forget Sun Screen, Get Burnt by Long-Distance Rays | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

D.C. Council 71: Wizards 93 vs Suns 99: Wiz Forget Sun Screen, Get Burnt by Long-Distance Rays

Updated: March 27, 2014

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council: setting the scene, recapping key points, providing the analysis, evaluating players, and catching anything that you may have missed from the Washington Wizards. Game No. 71: Wizards vs Suns, featuring Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20) and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the Verizon Center, Chinatown.
Stats probably via the normal places, Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com/stats.

Washington Wizards 93 vs Phoenix Suns 99
[box score]


“I truly don’t know.
I don’t know what to tell you.”




Stat(s) of the Game.

Points: 93 to 99.

Via this shot chart from one team, the losing team:


[Washington Wizards Shot Chart – March 26, 2014]

…And this shot chart from another, the winning team:

[Phoenix Suns Shot Chart - March 26, 2014]

[Phoenix Suns Shot Chart – March 26, 2014]

The Wizards are a perfectly capable 3-point shooting team (second-best in the NBA at 38.6%). So why don’t they, you know, try to shoot more of them? (18th in attempts, 21.0 per game).

—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)


DC Council Key Legislature

Coaches and players alike are firm believers in the “next man up” theory, which basically says that one injury is not a deterrent, but an opportunity for someone to step up in their absence. In Nene’s absence, John Wall and the unlikely hero Drew Gooden have done their very best to keep the Wizards afloat and in the playoff hunt. When Bradley “Wolverine” Beal limped off the floor with 3:04 left in the first half and the Wizards trailing 44-41, there was no reason to doubt that one or all of the Wizards could keep the game relatively close until Coach Wittman could make halftime adjustments, with or without Beal. Nothing of the sort happened.

Shortly after Beal left, Coach Wittman subbed in Martell Webster and Trevor Booker, and Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek countered by inserting Goran Dragic back into the game—presumably to exploit the fact that Ariza or Webster would be tasked with trying to keep up with him. The Suns then went on a 10-3 run, and Dragic was responsible for all 10 of his team’s points—his two assists resulted in five points, and he scored five of his own. It was 54-44 Phoenix at the half.

The Wizards went Beal-less the first six minutes of the second half, and they were equally ineffective, except this time, Dragic decided to bring his friends along. Miles Plumlee dunked, Bledsoe and Frye hit from behind the 3-point line, and Dragic seemed to get into the lane at will. John Wall had three turnovers during that six minute span, the Wizards scored just four points, and with 6:21 left in the third quarter, the Suns led 71-50. Beal finally came back into the game at that point, and the Suns still increased their lead to 25 before the Wizards mounted a comeback of their own.

Wall eventually shunned his jumper in favor of getting to the rim toward the end of the quarter, and Wittman used his version of small-ball to get the Wizards back in the game. But Washington fell victim to another theory that says you can’t fall behind by 25, expend energy closing that gap, and then expect have enough gas to win in the fourth quarter.

—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)


DC Council Chair

John Wall was undoubtedly the Wizards’ MVP Wednesday night against the Suns. After a slow first-half start, he scored 10 third-quarter points in a four-minute span, and in the fourth quarter he scored 15 of the Wizards’ 29 points. During one fourth-quarter stretch, Wall scored six points in less than a minute, with four of those points coming on consecutive drives where he seemingly outran everyone on the Suns roster. He did have trouble keeping Eric Blesdoe out of the lane, and he frequently broke the Wizards’ momentum with yo-yo dribbles and ill-advised outside shots that had hero ball written all over them. But given that Wall almost single-handedly outscored the Suns backcourt in the second half (Bledsoe and Dragic combined for 26 points, Wall had 23) he deserves a pass.

—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)


DC Council Vetoed Participation

Trevor Booker.

Two months ago when the Wizards and Suns played, Trevor Booker didn’t exactly have a dominant game (six points in 22 minutes), but he did have seven rebounds—six of them coming on the offensive end of the floor. On Wednesday night, Booker scored two points and grabbed just two rebounds (one offensive, one defensive), and he did not play the last 18 minutes of the game, because Wittman opted for a smaller, quicker lineup. If Booker was a plodding big man, then his benching would be understandable. But Booker’s quickness as an undersized forward is supposed to be his specialty, and he was all but useless against an equally quick and agile Suns front line.

Booker has averaged just 6.6 points in his last eight games, and when Coach Wittman hinted at lineup changes after losing to Phoenix, he most likely was directing his comments to Booker:

“I found five guys that finally had enough and decided to play the game with intensity and fight and make a difference. That’s what I’ve got to find. That’s why we’ve struggled at home. We just show up and see how the game is going to play out before we dictate how hard we’re going to play. That’s what we’ve got to clean up. If it’s lineup changes, we’ve got to find guys who do what we did, got down 25 and then said, ‘We better come play, this really could get ugly.’ “

—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)


DC Council Top Aide

I keep having to remind myself that Martell Webster isn’t having as bad of a year as it seems.

Or is he?

Part of it is that he’s now exclusively a bench player, which severely limits the talent he’s playing with. Last season, the top five percentages of overall minutes that Webster spent playing alongside a particular teammates went like this:

  • Okafor – 63%
  • Nene – 56%
  • Wall – 46%
  • Beal – 42%
  • Searphin – 31%

And this year:

  • Wall – 64%
  • Gortat – 55%
  • Ariza – 50%
  • Nene – 43%
  • Beal – 42%

Now, certainly some of these numbers have to do with the health of who Webster was playing with. From Jan. 12, 2013 (when Wall made his 2012-13 debut) to the end of last season, for instance, Webster and Wall spent more time on the court as a two-man unit (1,014 minutes) than any other Wizards duo. In total, 76 percent of Webster’s minutes in that time frame was spent playing alongside Wall. If you compare that to this season’s overall, 64 percent, there’s a significant difference in the amount of time spent playing with a passing 3-point career-maker like the Game Changer.

Other considerations: Replace a non-offensive but a passing center like Okafor with the pick-and-roll capabilities of Gortat (who’s also a decent passer, granted), and that will obviously diminish some opportunity. Or, limit the on-court exposure with an excellent passing big man like Nene (down 13% this season), and good looks will dwindle.

What are the Wizards to do? And are they even using their re-signed, $22 million guy right?

Hard to say. While still shooting a career-high .560 eFG% this season (after last season’s career-high of .551), Webster is getting to the free throw line less (down 1.1 FTAs/36 from last season), his 3-point percentage has gone down 2.7 percent, and he is grabbing 1.1 fewer rebounds per 36 minutes. A play here, a play there. It matters.

So there are reasons—much ado about Trevor Ariza; much ado about Webster’s sub par defense—that Webster isn’t getting as much prime-time.

All of this is a lead-in to tell you that against Phoenix, Webster scored 10 points, grabbed two rebounds, and committed three fouls, nothing else, in 24 minutes off the bench. It was the first time in the last eight games that he scored in double figures. We’re throwing him a bone.

Otherwise, in 55 games pre-both Andre Miller and Drew Gooden (more competent bench-mates, presumably), Webster averaged 28.8 minutes, 10.5 points, .440 FG%, .400 3P%, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. Post-Miller-Gooden (Feb. 26), Webster has averaged 26.9 minutes, 8.7 points, .402 FG%, .367 3P%, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.9 assists.

Whatever is going on with the photobombing West Coaster, hope it gets in focus soon.

—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)


DC Council Session

That session was … this Marcin Gortat post-game interview.

I’m not sure what to say after a loss like that. I truly don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you. Or in which direction to point the finger(s). But is that even worth it (each and every time, at least)?

It’s a team thing, clearly. From Coach to Otto Porter. (Look, kids, it’s not Wittman’s fault that Otto’s kinda bad right now.)

Newfangled in availability #WizVets—Andre Miller, Drew Gooden, Al Harrington—have been fancied at times, but even they require an adjustment period when it comes to offensive and defensive spacing … a feel for the game.

But even younger #WizVets and first-time teammates Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza continue to shift gears to get the engine running right. Late in the first quarter against Phoenix, they had a purposeful conversation about a ‘who-dunnit’ heading into a timeout. By the break of the huddle, their body language and communication indicated understanding. They very briefly held hands.

But that’s just one slice of the pickle. Randy Wittman’s offense. John Wall’s game management. Gortat’s bunnies. Brat-ley Beal. Life without Nene. Cut ’em all with a knife.

Oh yea, that session? Marcin Gortat can’t explain it, either.

—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)



DC Council Mayor

With no Nene, Randy Wittman has heavily relied on his next-up starting lineup.

Wall, Beal, Ariza, Booker, and Gortat have played 248 minutes together over the last 15 games, 33 percent of all minutes during that span, and have bested opponents by 2.1 points per 48 minutes.

When Wall, Beal, Ariza, Nene, and Gortat started 21 straight games together from Jan. 13 to Feb. 23, they soaked up 35 percent of all minutes to the tune of plus-6.6 per 48 minutes. Over that stretch, only one of the top eight five-man units (collectively holding down 67% of all minutes) did not include either Nene or Gortat—Temple, Beal, Webster, Booker, and Seraphin—and that was the only lineup in the plus/minus negative: minus-14.7 per 48 minutes.

Over the past 15 games, just one out of the top six five-man units has fielded a negative plus/minus per 48 (Wall, Webster, Ariza, Booker, Gortat—minus-7.8, 37 minutes). Replace Webster with Beal (the starters) and you get a 9.9-point swing.

While still considering the sub-par competition overall, the nouveau vets (Miller, Gooden, Harrington … and Webster) have played very well together off the bench, especially when paired with Beal: second-most minutes (82) and plus-12.4 per 48.

Two semi-often-played lineups (in the top six) featuring Ariza-Harrington-Gortat as the 3-4-5 combo, along with John Wall of course, have fared best. Plus-23.6/48 in 22 minutes with Beal; plus-41.9/48 in 21 minutes with Webster.

But the four-man unit of Wall, Ariza, Harrington, and Gortat has only played 45 minutes together over the past 15 games, six percent of the total minutes and the 14th-most-used four-man unit. Maybe Wittman & Co. need to look to that combo some more.

Maybe they’ll figure it out sooner or later otherwise. Again, we’re slicing pickles here.

—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)


The Other Side.

It is not unusual to hear players from the opposing team discuss John Wall’s speed and athleticism, and Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe were no different:

“He played great in the second half. He started being aggressive. He brought his team back, he gave his team a chance to win, but he just did not pull it out. We had those battles all the time when we were in college and when I was with the Clippers, so I pretty much knew what was coming.” —Eric Bledsoe

“He’s tough, especially in the open court. He’s so fast and it was really tough to stay in front of him. We tried to let him shoot more than penetrate, but when you make a turnover or they get a rebound, then it is really tough to stop him. He showed it. He’s an All-Star. He played great.” —Goran Dragic

Jeff Hornacek also joined in on the praise for John Wall’s speed and aggressiveness, but in describing why the Suns lost a 25-point lead, he also indirectly described why the Wizards struggle when he’s not aggressive:


Wall played a half of aggressive basketball, while Dragic and Bledsoe played three quarters worth, and that led to a Suns victory. Perhaps Coach Wittman should lean less towards a lineup change and persuade Wall to go to that proverbial next level a little earlier. As much as Wall’s outside shot has developed and made him more of an offensive weapon, his speed and ability to get in the lane to score of find open teammates will ultimately make or break the Wizards.

—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)


Pre-Game Jeff Hornacek

On… Alex Len, Marcin Gortat, Iowa State, and other stuff.


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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.